Understanding the making of 'land'
Land was the key site on which diverse settler and newcomer, Indigenous, and imperial discourses interacted during the nineteenth century to produce new social spaces in an intensely short period of time. The impact has been lasting. Throughout the Pacific today, from British Columbia, the USwest coast and Hawai’i, to the western and southern Pacific, the meaning and ownership of, and rights in, land remains contested in seemingly intractable ways.
In many cases, these contests, whether between Indigenous groups or between Indigenous and newcomer interests, stem directly from the legacies of the colonial era. Where Indigenous peoples have retained or regained customary rights to their lands, these remain vulnerable in contexts where the demands of 'development' continue to impose pressure to 'modernise' land tenure, and effectively alienate land.
In the Pacific's colonies of settlement historians have become increasingly aware of the centrality of research in addressing contemporary land use problems.[i]
In ongoing inquiries surrounding land claims in tribunals such as Fiji’s Land Claims Tribunal, N.Z.’s Waitangi Tribunal, and Australia’s  Native Title Tribunal, historical knowledge and understanding of the circumstances from which contested dispossession or possession arose, is foundational to ongoing negotiations.
But while these tribunals generate detailed knowledge of the individual circumstances of localized contested spaces, we are yet to develop a transnational understanding of the shared or distinct conceptual/discursive conditions that shaped the laws, technologies and disciplines of knowledge of colonial cultures.
[i] Behrendt, L. ‘Foreword’, in A. Curthoys, Rights and Redemption, (2008): ix-xvi; Belgrave, M. Historical Frictions (2005); Sorrenson, M. P. K., ‘Towards a radical reinterpretation of N.Z. History: the role of the Waitangi Tribunal’, Kawharu, I. H., ed., Waitangi, 158-79.
Reconnecting Fragments
This project is making use of a range of archival and published sources to assemble fragmented moments of conversational cultures within and between colonial/settler communities, and Indigenous communities regarding land. The former is more unproblematic as the colonial archive specialized in recording the thoughts, opinions and conversations of the colonial world.  The search for Indigenous voices, however, is more difficult.  
Although Indigenous peoples were neither totally absent from, nor silent in, the colonial record,  their presence often remains partial, obscured and fractured. Research for this project is therefore attempting to read traditional and new archives with a radar attuned to their gaps, obscurities or conventional silences.

Layered pieces of information, disparate voices and everyday moments, or what Antoinette Burton has called the "fragments of lives and dramas" of Indigenous peoples, are scattered throughout the archives. Research for this project is collecting these strands and fragments so they can be, as Lisa Sousa has put it, 'woven' and threaded together to make coherent pictures of previously untold stories.[i]

[i] Sousa, Lisa “Spinning and Weaving the Threads of Native Women’s Lives in Colonial Mexico”, and Antoinette Burton, “Foreword” in Nupur Chaudhuri et. al., Contesting Archives, (2010): 75-88 and vii.
Indigenous Counter Networks
 Throughout the nineteenth century Indigenous peoples undertook disparate acts of defiance or protest in attempts to stop or contain the appropriation of their lands.
From petitioning and letter writing, to squatting and physical occupation of space, to establishing legal treaties, sovereignties, and legal constitutions Indigenous peoples' strategies were diverse. But many also mirrored or echoed those in other colonial sites. Throughout the Australian colonies, New Zealand, Fiji and Hawai’i, attempts to negotiate rights in land that were alternative to the British spatial model of tenure, were persistent and connected by an increasingly mobile world.[i]
While our knowledge of Indigenous peoples' agency in individual countries of the Pacific is becoming evermore rich, this project focuses on the extent to which peoples' strategies of resisting dispossession were connected by Indigenous counter networks.
Research is centering on exploring the ways in which Indigenous peoples' knowledge and strategies were developed during the nineteenth century in transcolonial and even transimperial ways, as a coherent force for change. Examples of the kinds of connections that will be traced include the communications between Ratu Cakobau in Fiji and King Kamehameha in Hawai’i over land and sovereignty; the influence of Indigenous missionaries who travelled with the London Missionary Society; and the contacts of indentured labourers throughout the Pacidic which meant Indigenous peoples regularly interacted with eachother.[i]


[i] Detailed in Tracey Banivanua Mar, Decolonisation and the Pacific, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), Ch. 2.
[ii] Ratu Cakobau to King Kamehameha, 1871, Chief Secretary’s Office, Outwards Correspondence: CSO, FNA; Horne, G, The White Pacific (2007), 77-109.

Understanding 'Oceania'

This project approaches the region of what is now Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, and colonies of settlement in the Pacific, as a singular and interconnected site.
The Pacific during the nineteenth century was linked by the physical and discursive movement of people including thrill-seekers, indentured and free labourers, plantation owners, traders, settlers, missionaries, colonial officials and Indigenous leaders and workers who criss-crossed the Pacific's waters and landscapes.

This often meant, for example, that settlers in a ‘new’ colony like Fiji could borrowfrom the methods and techniques deployed in the places from which they came. Hence in Fiji in the 1870s, American and British settler self-defence groups variously called themselves the Ku Klux Klan, the British Subjects Mutual Protection Society, or local Rifle Corps. Their name mirrored similar organizations elsewhere and speaks to the transcolonial conversations about acquiring and keeping land that members often engaged with.[i]
Developing a Pacific (and Indigenous) centric view of colonialism, research for this project follows theflow of power, people and ideas throughout the late Epeli Hau’ofa's “Oceania”. Shedding the smallness and isolation that has often dominated undersandings of the Pacific, Hau'ofa's Oceania is a place shaped and defined by cultural, physical and discursive interactions between, and movement of, Indigenous peoples and newcomers.[ii]
[i] Banivanua Mar, T, “Cannibalism and Colonialism: charting colonies and frontiers in nineteenth-century Fiji”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 52:2, (2010).
[ii] Hau'ofa, Epeli "Epilogue: Pasts to Remember’, in R. Borofski, ed. Remembrance of Pacific Pasts, (2000), 453-471; Jolly, Margaret, ‘On the Edge? Deserts, Oceans, Islands’, The Contemporary Pacific, 13:2 (2001): 417-466; Lester, 2001; Thomas, 2011.